Tequila and The Day of The Dead

 

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Día de Muertos or Day of The Dead, in english,  is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially the United States, on November 1st and November 2nd. It is acknowledged internationally in many other cultures. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. In 2008 the tradition was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration took place at the beginning of summer. Gradually it was associated with October 31, November 1 and November 2 to coincide with the Western Christian dates of Allhallowtide: All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves.

This is a celebratory holiday, not one of mourning, and seeing tequila is a common thing in cemeteries and altars. Often, a bottle of the deceased’s favorite type of tequila, mezcal, or pulque is shared among the family in order to honor the deceased and celebrate their life. Other popular offerings include a sweet bread known as pan de muerto, or “bread of the dead”. 

Below you can see a photo of an altar, it has many different elements that represent a specific thing and each one relates to the life of the deceased.

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If you want to know more about this Mexican holiday leave a comment in this post. 

Designation of Origin for Tequila: Geography

A few days ago we posted about the Designation of Origin for Tequila, now this post will talk more in depth of the factors that make the Tequila region so unique for growing and harvesting Blue Agave.

Designation of Origin is the name of a geographic area of the country which designates a specific product made in such area and whose quality or characteristics are a result of its geographic environment, including natural and human elements.

Designation of Origin for Tequila started in 1975, obligating agave growers and tequila makers to register their crops and follow certain rules and regulations. The organism in charge of overseeing the fulfillment of those rules is called Consejo Regulador de Tequila (CRT).

This definition requires:

  • The demarcation of a specific geographic zone
  • Proven recognition or repute of the geographic site
  • Specific production conditions
  • Type/characterization

There is a consensus among the experts on the matter who agree that the decisive factors with respect to a designation of origin are the following (in order of importance);

  1. Climate.– With regard to climate, the main elements are light intensity, hours/light, precipitation, temperature, relative humidity. The climate in the region is warm with a bit of humidity, and with a low probability of freezing temperature despise the altitude of the lands. The best temperature for blue agave to grow is 15°C to 25°C during the day and 10°C to 15°C during the night. The rain amount should be no more than one meter a year.
  2. Soil.- Soil texture and chemistry are relevant factors.  The best type of soil is clayey or argillaceous, permeable, and rich in iron and other nutrients. Soils that allow the roots of the plant to breathe and grow, that are not sandy and that are too dark.
  3. Plant species.- Agave tequilana Weber blue variety is the plant species used for producing Tequila. It is native to this region and thus perfectly adapted to the climate and soil conditions.
  4. Human Activity.- This refers to the human activities involved in the entire process, from the planting to the harvesting of agave, to the production and ageing of Tequila. These activities may include techniques, artisanal traditions and skills; like the process of the Jima.

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Above you can see a map of the 5 states within Mexico with Designation of Origin, this means that only agave that grows in this states can be used to make Tequila. This states form the Tequila Region and are (from top to bottom and left to right):

  • Nayarit
  • Jalisco
  • Guanajuato
  • Michoacán
  • Tamaulipas

Around 87% of tequila is produced in the state of Jalisco, 6% in Michoacan, 6% in Nayarit and 1% in Guanajuato, while Tamaulipas only produces around 0.1%.

The region showed in the map has the right characteristics that allow Blue Agave to grow and then produce tequila. The red volcanic soil in the surrounding region is perfect for growing of the blue agave. Agave tequila grows differently depending on the region. Blue agaves grown in the highlands Los Altos region, they are larger in size and sweeter in aroma and taste. Agaves harvested in the lowlands have a more herbaceous fragrance and flavor.

 

If you would like to know more about the Designation of Origin or about any Tequila related topics, please leave a comment and let us know!

Do you like Tequila? This Drink Could Increase Its Price

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A few days ago the newspaper El Financiero published an article that talked about the price of the agave rising in the next months. If you like tequila as much as we do this topic is of your interest, we translated the article and you can read it below.

Even though in January of this year the kilo of the piña of agave was priced in 3.50 MXN, its current price is 10.50 MXN, that means the price of tequila could increase between 5% and 10% in the next months; said the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera (CNIT).

“It could be that the price of tequila increases between 5% and 10%, and it will be happening during the next few months starting now and maybe during the first semester of 2017”, mentioned Luis Velasco Fernández, CNIT president.

The reason, informed Raúl García Quirarte, president of the Sistema Producto Agave-Tequila, is that last January the price for one kilo of agave was 3.50 MXN but now it’s selling for 10.50 MXN.

The challenges for the different tequila brands will variate because some of them have their own agave fields, which allows them to contain the increasing prices, while others depend on external suppliers, explained Velasco. Various factors have come together to make the raise in the price of agave so drastic, but the fact that the tequila industry is not the only one consuming this product is important to consider.

The piña of agave goes through a process that as a result produces syrup and inulin, these substances are used in a lot of industries, especially the food industry, which competes with the tequila makers to obtain the agave.

“The consumption of inulin and agave syrup has increased, they’re associated with the intake of blue agave sugar”, said Quirarte.According to Quirarte, about 50 million agave plants are consumed each year, 35 millions are bought by near 140 tequila distilleries, while the other 15 million are purchased to make agave syrup and insulin.  But 10 years ago, the purchases of agave by the food industry companies were almost non existent.

Nevertheless, the CNIT estimates that there are other industries that consume around 4 million agave plants a year, but they’re young and small so a precise quantification of this sector’s consumption is difficult.

The birth of the inulin and agave syrup industry was a result of the overproduction of agave that occurred about 10 years ago, the amount of agave available was so much that people started looking for other uses for this plant. During that time one kilo of agave could be purchased in less than one peso.

“It is not healthy because every 10 years the same happens to us due to diverse factors, there’s an overproduction of agave and then a period of shortage, we have been trying to achieve a balance”, Quirarte said.

Also, the popularity of tequila has increased the amount of agave needed for its production, every year more people around the world enjoy drinking tquila according to data from Euromonitor.

Some mezcaleros have started using agave cultivated in Tequila, Jalisco, as well as the other 4 states with the designation of origin due to the increasing popularity of mezcal.

Original text from El Financiero: http://www.elfinanciero.com.mx/economia/eres-tequilero-por-esta-razon-la-bebida-podria-subir-10.html

History of Tequila Production

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In this post will talk about the history of tequila production, so you can understand a little bit more about the evolution of tequila. We will be explain the history of the production based on the graph below; the red line represents the total amount of tequila produced, the dark green represents the tequila production, and the yellow line the tequila 100%.

Tequila was not very popular between the mexican society but it all started to change towards the end of the1990s. The demand for Blue Weber agave was increasing and the farmers in the Tequila Region saw an opportunity so they started planting more agaves, the mexican government was also aware of the growth of demand for agave so they instructed banks to open credits to farmers to plant even more agave in order to satisfy the needs of the tequila industry.

Among the agave growers who got those credits were my cousins, who had planted agave for generations.

As a result, after 9 to 12 years that agave needs to grow, the Blue Weber Agave production was more than the quantity needed by the tequila industry, causing the price of agave to drop dramatically. Some farmers could not sell all agave and others were not obtaining fair prices for it. Banks were pushing to get their money back but there was not enough market for all agave, prices lowered even more. There was no way the agave growers could pay the banks back, so they started letting the agave spoil or burned their plantations.

I remember my uncle Juan trying to sell his agave at the distilleries. He was trying to get at least $0.80 MXN per agave Kilo. The truck’s line trying to deliver agave was long, finally when we got our turn, the buyer told my uncle:

– I will give Mx $0.20 per Kilo and will pay you in 6 months, if you do not agree, get out of the line.

The offered price was less than the cost for jimar the agave and to carry it into trucks to the distillery. But he had not option. As this situation lasted for several years without the possibility to pay back to banks, my uncle finally suffered a stroke that killed him.

In 1995 with a Peso/Dollar big gap parity, middle Mexican class could not afford to drink any more imported Cognac or Whiskey, the only affordable drink on shelves was Tequila. At the time, very few people in Mexico had heard about Tequila 100%, but due to the high prices of imported drinks Mexican middle and high classes started to try Tequila, and immediately realized of the great flavor and quality of this great Spirit.

And so the popularity of Tequila increased significantly, not only in Mexico but also on an international level. But we have to remember that just a couple years before some farmers had burned their plantations or stopped planting agave, at the time it was not a problem because there were enough agaves for the production of tequila, but now with the “Tequila Boom” there were not enough agaves to satisfy the demand and tequila quality started to decrease. The aforementioned gave place to the “Agave Crisis”. The agave prices started to go up and up, to the point that agave growers with available rape agave became millionaires.

For example, in 1993 my cousins used to get around $20,000.00 MXN per agave truck, for year 2000 they were getting $400,000.00 MXN per agave truck. They were able to pay off the banks and recovered their land. Unfortunately my uncle was not present to see this happening.

In 1999 I was living close to Miami, in a town named Coral Springs, trying to push my Tequila brand “Tequila 1921”, but as agave kept going up and our profit was close to nothing, we decided to stop selling it. Suddenly I was without income and economic pressure became unbearable. One day I received a call from a broker asking me for bulk Tequila (51% – 49%). He wanted 25,000 gallons per month for a big rectifier in the USA.  I started to call several distilleries but everybody was using the few available agave for their 100% Tequila brands, nobody wanted to sell Tequila at a low price. Finally a distillery quoted me $12.00mUSD/Gallon of tequila and agreed in a 3% commission.  I called the broker and informed him the price. Three days later he called me to inform the rectifier had accepted the price. I called the Tequila distillery and they say:

– Oh, we have a problem. Tequila gallon is now worth $18.00 USD per gallon
– What? -I said, -this cannot be, you just said USD $12.00/Gallon a couple days ago!
– Sorry, nothing we can do about it – They said.  

When I called the broker to inform the new price, he just yelled at me saying Mexicans were a whole bunch of thieves and hung up.  A couple days later the broker called me to inform the rectifier had accepted the new price, again I called the tequila distillery and they say:

– Oh, again a problem, now it is $22.00 USD per gallon.
– What is going on? – I asked.
– It is just that agave is getting up day by day; sorry about this, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

Again I phoned the broker to inform him and again he yelled and insulted me like crazy. Next day the broker phoned me and said:

–I’m about to go in a meeting to inform the last price. Please call the distillery and ask them if they can keep the price for a week.

I called the distillery and they said yes.
An hour later the broker calls again and said:

-They want to know what distillery it is, they need to check it. 

Very unwillingly I had to give him the name.
The next day I called the broker to ask what had happened.

-They accepted the price and already placed their order.
– What? The order had to be placed through me!
-Well I do not know what deal you had with the distillery, but the order was already placed.
– You do not know how things are in Mexico. –  I thought

Immediately I called the distillery and asked for the owner, Mr. Gomez, the person I had been talking to.  

– Hey Mr. Gomez, I want to inform you that my customer will place an order of 25,000 gallons per month today.
– Yes – he said – we just had an order from Heaven Hill.
– Mr. Gomez, Heaven Hill is my customer, the one I have been quoting for with you for the last month. Please do not forget my 3% commission.
– Oh, I am so sorry, but this order was a direct call to us. I cannot consider any commission to you.
– But Mr. Gomez, we have been talking and I had told you the quote was for a customer in the USA. – I said.
– Yes, but as I explained to you, this order came to us directly. Let me see what can I do for you, please call my accountant tomorrow.

When I called the next day the accountant told me that as the order came directly there was not any overprice in the selling price to consider any commission and hung up. I got so frustrated that started to hit my head against the wall. My 4 year old son shocked asked my wife:

– Why is dad hitting his head so hard?
– That’s the way he thinks. – She answered.

Next day I called the broker, after explaining him what was going on, I asked if a change of distillery was possible. As I was sharing this 3% commission with him, he accepted to inform Heaven Hill of this.  Finally I was able to get another distillery interested and 3 days later we closed the deal.  A week later Mr. Gomez called me to ask for Heaven Hill because they have not taken any call from him.

In the graph below we can observe that towards the end of the 90s the total production of tequila started to increase, especially the tequila production (dark green line). Then, after a peak at the end of the 90s and beginning of 2000, the production dramatically decreases, it’s more notable in the production of Tequila 100%, these marks the “Agave Crisis”. During this time some Tequila brands started selling mixed tequilas (51% agave sugar, 49% Cane sugar).

After 2004, we can see that the production starts increasing again very slowly, while the industry recovered from the crisis. In 2007 and 2008, the Tequila 100% production (yellow line) suprasses the tequila production (dark green line) and for a couple years the production of this two stays steady until 2012, when they invert and now the tequila (dark green) is more than the tequila 100% production (yellow line).

Remember the production of tequila represents Tequila that’s mixed with other sugars or has color added, while the tequila 100% ingredients are exclusively from the Blue Weber Agave.

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Tequila Basics: Designation of Origin

There are some basic things you should know about Tequila if you want to become a professional, in this post we’ll cover the third of many topics that are key for you education as a “Tequila Professional”:
Designation of Origin

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If you want to know more about the Designation of Origin of Tequila click here.

Tequila Basics: Kinds of Tequila

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There are some basic things you should know about Tequila if you want to become a professional, in this post we’ll cover the third of many topics that are key for you education as a “Tequila Professional”:
Kinds of Tequila, the different Tequila categories and classes.

Tequila Categories:

Tequilas are sorted into two different categories depending on the percentage of sugar used during the elaboration of Tequila:

  • 100% de Agave. This Tequila has no aggregated sugars from a different source other than the Blue Weber Agave cultivated within the Tequila region, and it has to be bottled in the same facilities that have to be located within the Tequila region. It can be labeled with the following phrases: 100% de Agave, 100% puro de Agave, 100% Agave, 100% puro Agave.
  • Tequila. This Tequila is mixed with other sugars, before fermentation, up to a 49%. These sugars can be from any kind of Agave or other sources. It has to be bottled in facilities located within the Tequila region or outside of it when the facilities fulfills the terms in the NOM.

Tequila Classes: 

According to the characteristics acquired during the processes after the distillation Tequila is classified in:

  • Tequila Blanco (Silver Tequila). Clear and unaged Tequila that is normally bottled right after being distilled.
  • Tequila Joven (Gold Tequila). This type of Tequila is normally a mix of White Tequila with Tequila Reposado, añejo or extra añejo or just color added. Their taste is smooth and and youthful.
  • Tequila Reposado (Aged Tequila). The first level of ageing, the tequila remains in wood barrels for a period of two months but no longer than 12 months. Each distillery has its own preference for the type of barrel used in ageing. The type of barrel used have an impact on the final flavor of the Tequila.
  • Tequila Añejo (Extra Aged). This is the next level of ageing and means “vintage”. Tequila has to be aged in an oak barrels, with a maximum capacity of 600 liters, for a least one year.
  • Tequila Extra Añejo (Ultra Aged). This is the last level of Tequila ageing, it needs to be aged in oak barrels, with a maximum capacity of 600 liters, for at least 3 years.

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